The Compass

Janet Coleman, Author
Janet Coleman, Author Knopf Publishing Group $22.95 (347p) ISBN 978-0-394-52545-7
Reviewed on: 05/01/1990
Release date: 05/01/1990
Night after night in bohemian 1950s Chicago, the improvisational Compass Players satirized American culture with parodies of TV shows, spontaneous skits based on audience suggestions, and scenes about sports, dating, suburbia and psychoanalysis. Elaine May, Mike Nichols, Shelley Berman, Barbara Harris and Anne Meara were among its stars. On the heels of The Compass, the Second City theatrical revue debuted in Chicago in 1959, and a similar club, The Premise, opened in New York's Greenwich Village a year later. Although disjointed and episodic, this history of The Compass and its progeny is ultimately a moving, inspirational, anecdote-studded feast for comedy and show-biz buffs. Improvisational actress Coleman, author of Mingus-Mingus , observes that The Compass made the improvisational stage an arena of self-discovery and set standards that have left their mark on figures ranging from Woody Allen to Lily Tomlin. Photos. (May)
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